Visited by 10 millions of people each year, Versailles is one of the biggest tourist attractions in France. Even in cold days, it’s hard not to find queues in which you usually have to stand for over an hour, and often even longer. Why is this palace so interesting and attracting so many tourists?
During the reign of Louis XIII, Versailles was a small village where the king used to come to hunt in the nearby forests. His son, Ludwik XIV, fell in love with this place and decided to build a royal residence there. However, this was not the only reason. Immediately after visiting the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which belonged to a high-ranking official, Nicolas Fouquet, the idea of creating a better palace was born. King simply envied the beautiful residence of his subordinate and not only commissioned the construction of a better place, but also arrested an official.
Work began in 1661 by rebuilding the existing castle into a small palace and arranging a park. However, when the king celebrated the opening of a new residence, and the courtiers still considered it only as a country estate, Louis XIV decided to completely rebuild the palace. He wanted to create the fabulous Palace of the Sun (Palais du Soleil) and make himself the King of the Sun (Roi Soleil).
The buildings were designed by kings architects Louis Le Vau i Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the interior by Charles Le Brun, and person responsible for the gardens was André Le Nôtre.
Versailles is one of the finest Baroque buildings and was an inspiration for architects of many other similar places created during future years. In front of the palace there is a semicircular square (Place d’Armes) of 6 ha, with a base of 350 m and a width of 220 m.
“The palace has three courtyards: Cour des Ministres, Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) with equestrian statue of Louis XIV and Cour de Marbre (Marble Courtyard) with some of the buildings forming part of Ludwik XIII hunting castle of white stone and red brick.”
20 years after the construction of the palace with 2 thousands windows, with 700 chambers, 1200 fireplaces and 67 stairwells were ready for habitation. It became the official residence of the king of France in 1682 and took over the role of the capital of the country. Inhabited by many courtiers, it was comfortable only for the royal couple. The rest of the palace residents had to settle for sleeping in wardrobes or on the bunks.
The Palace of Versailles is famous for its splendor, rich interiors and a beautiful garden. However, we identify it mostly because of the well-known and controversial person who lived in it – Marie Antoinette. When in 1774 a seventeen-year-old queen performed at the side of Louis XVI, she showed the dazzling interiors of the palace to the world. It was for Marie Antoinette that the king erected two palaces Grand and Petit Trianon in the middle of the Versaille Gardens (a separate article will be created about the gardens). I had the opportunity to read one of Juliet Gray’s trilogy books about this monarch, which I heartily recommend.
“The kings of France lived in Versailles until 1789, when the French Revolution broke out, an uproarious people guillotined Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Versailles became the target of plundering, Napoleon saved this palace from the ruin, and in 1833, King Ludwik Filip set up the Museum of History of France. “
Some interesting facts about the Palace of Versailles.
- The largest in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors, in which there are 357 huge mirrors from floor to ceiling.
- All materials and decorations used to build the palace are 100% French.
- It is here that the Treaty of Versailles ending the First World War was signed.
- The palace had a problem with sewerage and smelled bad.
- Even the pots in the palace were made of silver.
- A part of the Versailles furniture was auctioned and purchased by the British rulers. The furniture is located in Buckingham Palace.
- The place of the current purchase of tickets was a residential building of French ministers.
- There are 5000 furniture and 6000 paintings in Versailles.
- King Ludwik XVI had 200 servants and the task of some was simply to empty his toilet.
- The palace has over 67 thousand square meters.
- 36,000 employees built a palace and gardens.
- The golden gate of the Versailles Palace was changed in 2008, because the original gate was destroyed during the French Revolution. The replica is decorated with 100,000 golden leaves worth 5 million euros.
After passing the first safety gates, you have to go left to buy tickets. If there are queues for cash desks, there are self-service machines in the same building, which usually do not have queues, but there is a possibility of paying with the card only. After purchasing the ticket, go to the queue to the entrance, which is outside.
- Summer season (March- November) 9 am – 6.30 pm
- Winter season (November-March) 9 am – 5.30 pm
How to get there:
- Train Rer C stop – Versailles-Rive Gauche
- Train SNCF stop – Versailles-Rive Droite
- Normal ticket 18€ – entrance to the palace and the gardens
- Entrance to the palace, gardens and Tranion 23€
More information on the official website.
Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles